cover image Landscapes


Christine Lai. Two Dollar Radio, $26 (218p) ISBN 978-1-953387-38-7

Lai debuts with an intelligent narrative of an archivist living and working in the English countryside in a near future wracked by climate change. Penelope is the archivist and librarian at Mornington Hall, where she’s lived for the past 22 years with the owner, Aidan, who’s also her partner, and with whom she plans to demolish the house and sell the property to raise funds for a house on wheels and other projects. Meanwhile, cities are covered by geodesic domes, and climate refugees from other countries surge at England’s borders (Mornington Hall hosts a small number of such “travellers”). In anticipation of a valedictory visit from Aidan’s brother, Julian, the house’s former owner and Penelope’s former boss, she struggles with her resurfacing memories of being sexually assaulted by Julian, and also recalls how she initially bonded with him over a shared love for the paintings of J.M.W. Turner, in which Penelope saw a particular darkness that also seemed to exist in Julian. The “false appeal” of this darkness, as Penelope terms it now, forms the novel’s emotional core. Alongside Penelope’s trauma, thoughtfully developed ekphrases show how violence against women has not only been banalized, but positively coded in the tradition of Western painting. The text is an elegant assembly of such descriptions, along with catalogue entries, excerpts from Penelope’s journal, and sections written from Julian’s perspective. Sebald fans should take note. Agent: Stephanie Sinclair, CookeMcDermid Agency. (Sept.)